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Coaching Matters: 2021 Cincinnati Bengals Coaching Staff Preview

After every NFL season, NFL teams take the time to evaluate not only the players but also the coaching staff and front office as well. While many teams choose to retain the same head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator, a few other teams opt to go in a new direction with their coaching staff.

One team that managed to maintain their core coaching staff this offseason was the Cincinnati Bengals, with head coach Zac Taylor, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo all returning for the 2021-22 season.

This article will look at the potential impact this coaching staff will have on the players and try to pinpoint the Bengals players' fantasy values in it.

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The Baseline

To get a better understanding of the value the Bengals coaches bring to this team, we can look at the NFL league averages in each of the past two years in a variety of statistical categories and then compare them to the averages achieved by the Bengals' coaches. Here are 'The Baseline' NFL league averages over the past couple of years:

QB Impact

Year Team Pass Att. Team Pass Yds. Team Pass TDs QB Carries QB Rush Yds. QB Rush TDs
2019 League Average
34.87 251.78 1.56 3.56 15.04 0.16
2020 League Average 35.19 254.88 1.70 4.19 18.43 0.25

RB Impact

Year RB Carries RB Rush Yds. RB Rush TDs RB Rec. RB Targets RB Rec. Yds. RB Rec. TDs
2019 League Average
21.77 92.96 0.68 5.10 6.64 40 0.19
2020 League Average
21.68 95.13 0.75 4.71 6.14 34.94 0.18

WR Impact

Year WR Rec. WR Targets WR Rec. Yds. WR Rec. TDs
2019 League Average
12.05 19.59 158.39 0.95
2020 League Average
13.24 20.21 166.67 1.04

TE Impact

Year TE Rec. TE Targets TE Rec. Yds. TE Rec. TDs
2019 League Average
4.70 6.88 50.99 0.38
2020 League Average
4.76 7.03 51.29 0.45

Defense Impact

Year Points Allowed Pass Yds Given Up Run Yds Given Up Plays Against Yds/Play
Turnovers Forced
22.8 235 112.9 63.5 5.5 1.4
24.8 240.2 118.9 64.3 5.6 1.3

 

2021 Offense

2021 Head Coach: Zac Taylor

When the Cincinnati Bengals hired Zac Taylor to be the head coach in 2019, they were hoping he would be the next great young offensive-minded coach like his former boss Sean McVay. But after two years as the head coach, the team has compiled a 6-25-1 record and the jury is still out on his offensive scheming ability. To get a better understanding of how Taylor has utilized his offensive players, let's dive into some team statistics from Zac Taylor's time in an offensive coordinator or head coaching role.

QB Impact

Year Games Team Pass Att. Team Pass Yds. Team Pass TDs QB Carries QB Rush Yds. QB Rush TDs
2019 Bengals 16 38.5 249.63 1.13 2.63 9.38 0.25
2020 Bengals 16 36.31 237.06 1.19 3.81 14.69 0.25
Taylor's Career Averages (OC/HC) 37 36.95 243.35 1.11 3.11 12.68 0.24

RB Impact

Year Games RB Carries RB Rush Yds. RB Rush TDs RB Rec. RB Targets RB Rec. Yds.
RB Rec. TDs
2019 Bengals 16 20.69 81.69 0.31 4.06 5.5 32.56 0.19
2020 Bengals 16 20.75 81.38 0.56 5.25 6.38 36.81 0.25
Taylor's Career Averages (OC/HC) 37 20.92 81.24 0.49 4.59 5.86 34.57 0.19

WR Impact

Year Games WR Rec. WR Targets WR Rec. Yds. WR Rec. TDs
2019 Bengals 16 13.31 24.25 172.25 0.56
2020 Bengals 16 14.69 24.44 169.69 0.81
Taylor's Career Averages (OC/HC) 37 13.86 24.11 171.89 0.68

TE Impact

Year Games TE Rec. TE Targets TE Rec. Yds. TE Rec. TDs
2019 Bengals 16 4.81 7 45.06 0.38
2020 Bengals 16 3.31 4.44 30.56 0.13
Taylor's Career Averages (OC/HC) 37 4.03 5.68 37 0.24

 

2021 Offensive Coordinator: Brian Callahan

Brian Callahan was hired to be the Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator back in 2019 after previously serving as the Oakland Raiders quarterbacks coach (2018). While he's only worked under Zac Taylor and never been the official offensive play-caller, let's take a look at some statistics from Brian Callahan's time in the Bengals offensive coordinator role.

QB Impact

Year Games Team Pass Att. Team Pass Yds. Team Pass TDs QB Carries QB Rush Yds. QB Rush TDs
2019 Bengals 16 38.5 249.63 1.13 2.63 9.38 0.25
2020 Bengals 16 36.31 237.06 1.19 3.81 14.69 0.25
Callahan's Career Averages (OC/HC) 32 37.41 243.34 1.16 3.22 12.03 0.25

RB Impact

Year Games RB Carries RB Rush Yds. RB Rush TDs RB Rec. RB Targets RB Rec. Yds.
RB Rec. TDs
2019 Bengals 16 20.69 81.69 0.31 4.06 5.5 32.56 0.19
2020 Bengals 16 20.75 81.38 0.56 5.25 6.38 36.81 0.25
Callahan's Career Averages (OC/HC) 32 20.72 81.53 0.44 4.66 5.94 34.69 0.22

WR Impact

Year Games WR Rec. WR Targets WR Rec. Yds. WR Rec. TDs
2019 Bengals 16 13.31 24.25 172.25 0.56
2020 Bengals 16 14.69 24.44 169.69 0.81
Callahan's Career Averages (OC/HC) 32 14 24.34 170.97 0.69

TE Impact

Year Games TE Rec. TE Targets TE Rec. Yds. TE Rec. TDs
2019 Bengals 16 4.81 7 45.06 0.38
2020 Bengals 16 3.31 4.44 30.56 0.13
Callahan's Career Averages (OC/HC) 32 4.06 5.72 37.81 0.25

 

Zac Taylor and Brian Callahan Takeaways & Expectations

Since Zac Taylor has been the primary play-caller for the Bengals and Brian Callahan has only worked under Taylor as an offensive coordinator, we will talk primarily about the offense Taylor has liked to run over the course of his career in this section. Zac Taylor's offenses have averaged 36.95 passing attempts over the 37 games he's been interim offensive coordinator (2015 Miami Dolphins) or the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals - which is above the league-average. Providing an above-average passing volume will make it easier for his quarterback, Joe Burrow, to put up big fantasy passing numbers.

It's also important to pay attention to the amount of rushing work a quarterback receives since it can give your quarterback a higher ceiling in fantasy leagues. Over the course of his career as an offensive coordinator or head coach, Taylor's quarterback room has averaged 3.11 carries per game.

Based on the QB carries graph above, Zac Taylor has seen a below-average number of rushing attempts from his quarterbacks in every single season he's been an offensive coordinator or head coach. This rushing usage puts more pressure on Joe Burrow to put up big passing numbers to finish in the QB1 range of fantasy football leagues. Based on this information, from a fantasy perspective Burrow should be valued in the mid to high QB2 range.

Examining Zac Taylor's running back rooms, he's done a poor job utilizing and getting production out of them. Over the course of the 37 games he's been a play-caller, his running back room has averaged 0.49 rushing touchdowns per game which is below the league average. In addition, his running backs have gotten just 20.92 carries per game over this time which is also below average.

If old trends hold true then Zac Taylor's running back room will get a below-average number of carries. But in terms of the distribution of carries, how often is it going to one player versus Taylor conducting a running back by committee approach?

Outside of 2020 where starting running back Joe Mixon only played in six games, Taylor has given his lead back a significant chunk of the carries. With Joe Mixon healthy for the 2021 season, we should expect Taylor to go back to primarily featuring one running back and Mixon receiving roughly 75% of the team's tailback carries.

The final aspect we should look at concerning Zac Taylor's running backs is how much he has traditionally utilized them in the passing game. Over the course of his career, Taylor's running back room has averaged just 5.86 targets per game - which is below average.

Overall, the combination of Taylor providing a below-average number of carries and targets makes it difficult for the team to produce a top tier fantasy back. The one good thing he has going from a fantasy perspective is that he prefers to utilize a bell-cow approach to the position, which should keep Joe Mixon's fantasy floor pretty high. Based on all this information, from a fantasy perspective, Joe Mixon should be valued as a mid to high-end RB2.

Looking at the wide receiver position, in Zac Taylor's 37 game career as an offensive play-caller his wide receiver room has averaged an impressive 24.11 targets per game. For reference, the average wide receiver room averaged 19.59 targets per game in 2019 and 20.21 targets per game in 2020.

Perhaps most encouraging about this usage is that it isn't just one outlier year boosting the totals - every single year Taylor has been a play-caller he has provided the group with an above-average number of targets per game. This usage raises the ceiling of all the Cincinnati Bengals wide receivers and makes them intriguing investments in fantasy football leagues.

Finally, Taylor's historical usage of tight ends is not very encouraging. In his career, his tight end room has averaged just 5.68 targets per game. For reference, the league average has been 6.88 tight end targets (2019) and 7.03 tight end targets (2020) per game over the last two seasons.

This usage will make it difficult for any of the Bengals tight ends to be anything more than a streamer during the 2021 season. For this reason, you should probably not be targeting any of the Bengals tight ends in your re-draft fantasy leagues this season and look elsewhere for better options.

Fantasy Relevant Players: Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, Chris EvansSamaje Perine, Ja'Marr ChaseTyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, Auden Tate, Drew Sample, and C.J. Uzomah

 

2021 Defense

2021 Defensive Coordinator: Lou Anarumo

Lou Anarumo has been the Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator since 2019. Prior to becoming the Bengals defensive coordinator, he was the defensive backs coach for the Miami Dolphins (2012-2018) and New York Giants (2019) and also had a brief 12 game stint as the Miami Dolphins interim defensive coordinator in 2015. Let's dive into the defensive statistics his teams have compiled over the course of his career as a defensive coordinator.

Year Games Points Allowed Pass Yds Given Up Run Yds Given Up Plays Against Yds/Play Turnovers Forced
2019 Bengals 16 26.25 244.81 148.88 64.63 6.09 1
2020 Bengals 16 26.5 241.19 148 63.81 6.10 1.06
Anarumo's Career Averages (DC/HC) 44 25.73 245.91 139.25 65.02 5.92 1.04

The Cincinnati Bengals defense has been subpar under Anarumo, with the team finishing below-average across the board in categories such as points allowed, passing yards allowed, rushing yards allowed, yards per play, and turnovers forced. Given the lackluster performance of Anarumo's defenses, the Cincinnati Bengals D/ST should not be drafted in your fantasy leagues.

Other Notable Assistants

Special Teams Coordinator: Darrin Simmons - Darrin Simmons is the longest-tenured coach on the Cincinnati Bengals coaching staff. He's been a special teams coach with the team since 2003 and became the team's special teams coordinator in 2013.

QB Coach: Dan Pitcher - Dan Pitcher is entering his second year as the Cincinnati Bengals quarterbacks coach after being promoted to the role for the 2020 NFL season. He's been with the Bengals since 2016.

RB Coach: Justin Hill - Justin Hill will be new to the Cincinnati Bengals coaching staff in 2021. He previously spent six seasons at the University of Tulsa as a running backs coach (2015-2020).

WR Coach: Troy Walters - Troy Walters was the Bengals assistant wide receivers coach in 2020 and was promoted to the wide receivers coach for the 2021 season. He's previously been a wide receivers coach at the college level for Indiana State (2009), Texas A&M (2010-2011), NC State (2012), Colorado (2013-2015), UCF (2016-2017), and Nebraska (2018-2019). Walters also played wide receiver in the NFL for the Minnesota Vikings (2000-2001), Indianapolis Colts (2002-2005), Arizona Cardinals (2006), and Detroit Lions (2007).

TE Coach: James Casey - James Casey has been the Cincinnati Bengals tight ends coach since 2019. He also played tight end in the NFL for the Houston Texans (2009-2012), Philadelphia Eagles (2013-2014), and Denver Broncos (2015).

OL Coach: Frank Pollack - Frank Pollack is back in Cincinnati with the Bengals in 2021 as the team's offensive line coach and run game coordinator. At the NFL level, Pollack's been the offensive line coach for the Oakland Raiders (2012), Dallas Cowboys (2015-2017), Cincinnati Bengals (2018), and New York Jets (2019-2020). He also played guard and tackle at the NFL level for the San Francisco 49ers (1990-1991, 1994-1997) and the Denver Broncos (1992-1993).

DL Coach: Marion Hobby - Marion Hobby is new to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2021. He's been coaching in a variety of roles at the college and NFL levels since 1995 and has previously been an NFL defensive line coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars (2017-2018) and Miami Dolphins (2019-2020).

LB Coach: Al Golden - Al Golden has been the Cincinnati Bengals linebackers coach since 2020. He has been involved in coaching since 1993 and spent time as the Temple Owls head coach (2006-2010) and Miami Hurricanes head coach (2011-2015). At the NFL level, he served as the Detroit Lions tight ends coach (2016-2017) and linebackers coach (2018-2019) before joining the Bengals.

Cornerbacks Coach: Steve Jackson - Steve Jackson will be entering his second year as the Bengals cornerbacks coach. He has coached in a variety of roles in the secondary, spending time with the Buffalo Bills (2001-2003), Washington Redskins (2004-2011), Detroit Lions (2013), Tennessee Titans (2016-2017), and New York Jets (2018-2019) before joining the Bengals.

Secondary/Safeties Coach: Robert Livingston - Robert Livingston has been with the Bengals his entire NFL coaching career. He's been working with the Bengals secondary specifically since 2016 and has been the team's safeties coach since 2018.

 

Enjoy this series? Be sure to check out all of the other 'Coaching Matters' team previews: Houston TexansJacksonville JaguarsIndianapolis ColtsTennessee TitansCleveland BrownsBaltimore Ravens, and Pittsburgh Steelers

 

Follow Eli Grabanski on Twitter: @3li_handles



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